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Russian Gays To Take Mayor To Court Over 'Queer' Jibe

"Nobody in Russia can win against the authorities. This is about raising awareness," gay activist Nikolai Alekseyev said.
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Gay rights activists in Moscow plan to take the city's rampantly homophobic mayor to court for insulting their dignity during an interview in which he said "queers" undermined a morally healthy society.

A Moscow court rejected a previous case made by gay rights campaigners against 72-year-old mayor Yury Luzhkov in 2007 after he described their marches as "satanic" and banned one.

Prominent gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseyev said on June 3 that lawyers would present a new case against Luzhkov to a Moscow court this week and later to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

"Nobody in Russia can win against the authorities. This is about raising awareness," he told Reuters by telephone.

Besides banning several gay parades in Moscow, Luzhkov has also blamed homosexuals for the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The issue of gay rights in Russia heated up in May, when a lesbian couple's attempt to apply for a marriage license was rejected and a gay rights march to coincide with the Eurovision Song Contest, held in Moscow for the first time, was banned.

Police detained around 80 people, including Alekseyev, who tried to hold the march anyway.

Luzhkov's latest comments, urging Alekseyev and other activists to take him to court, were broadcast on June 2 by a state-run television program.

"Our society has healthy morals and rejects all these queers," Interfax news agency quoted Luzhkov as saying on TV-Tsentr. "If you even imagine that they get permission to hold their parade and gather, they will simply be killed."

In 2006, militant Russian Orthodox believers and neo-fascists attacked a gay-rights protest, injuring some of the demonstrators.

The gay scene in Moscow is relatively small and low-profile but accessible. Most clubs and bars aimed at the gay community are known through word of mouth rather than being openly advertised.

Alekseyev said Luzhkov was using security concerns as a smokescreen and did not want to see gay activists on Moscow's streets.

"If the mayor of Moscow cannot provide security for a group of 100 people then he should not be mayor," Alekseyev said.

The vocal gay activists are a minority in Moscow's homosexual community and have not attracted large numbers to their protests.